SEOUL, South Korea will soon decide on the fate of the 1 billion yen (US$8.9 million) fund Japan paid under the 2015 bilateral agreement to resolve the feud over Japan's wartime sexual slavery of Korean women, which went dormant under the current Moon Jae-in administration, the incoming gender equality minister said Thursday.
The pledge came after President Moon hinted at removing the South Korean Reconciliation and Healing Foundation to which the Japanese fund was entrusted.
Under the 2015 deal to end the diplomatic feud stemming from Japan's 1910-45 colonization of the Korean Peninsula, Japan paid the money to compensate and commemorate South Korean women sexually enslaved during World War II.
Coming to power in 2017, however, Moon effectively reversed the decision of the former administration of impeached President Park Geun-hye, claiming that the deal failed to adequately consider the voices of the victims and civil society. Then the government replenished the fund with its own budget, putting the operation of the Japanese fund on hold.
In his summit meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in New York on Tuesday, Moon warned the Japanese leader that the foundation is on an inevitable course to perish due to protests by the victims and the public.
"There has already been much pondering on the issue and the final stage for the decision on what to do with the foundation seems to be imminent," Gender Equality Minister Jin Sun-mee said in a meeting with reporters. Her ministry is in charge of the controversial foundation.
"I will strive to make the final decision as early as possible in consultation with the (former) comfort women and those who support them as they eagerly await the decision," the minister noted.
Jin did not elaborate on details but said the ministry will make the decision with "unprecedented caution" so the decision could be made with "minimum concerns and risks."
Currently, the ministry is reviewing "multiple ideas" on what to do with the foundation, Jin also said, adding that she will consult with Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha when she returns from a trip to New York on Sunday.
After taking office last week, the new minister said she will put a priority on the issue of so-called "comfort women," also vowing national projects to recover the honor and dignity of the victims.
Source: Yonhap News Agency